The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deflects questions from the audience about running for President in 2016 during the closing plenary session on the second day of the 2014 Meeting of Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona March 22, 2014. REUTERS/Samantha Sais Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deflects questions from the audience about running for President in 2016 during the closing plenary session on the second day of the 2014 Meeting of Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona March 22, 2014. REUTERS/Samantha Sais  

Smart power: U.S. strategy for the 21st Century

Photo of Lanny Davis
Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton

By the turn of the 21st century, it was clear that a new approach to the use of American power to protect our national interests and values was necessary.

At the risk of some over-simplification, by the end of former President George W. Bush’s second term, essentially two lines of thinking had emerged. On the right was a preference for the use of “hard power” — the use of military force and intervention to protect U.S. interests. On the left was a growing bias against military intervention of any kind and in favor of “soft power” — economic aid and incentives on human rights and democracy. And recently, we have seen the libertarian right, led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), appearing almost always to oppose both hard military power and soft power of foreign aid and economic development.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in partnership with her boss, President Obama, came up with a mix of hard and soft, calling it “smart power,” with the appropriate mix between the two driven by specific facts and circumstances.

“The president-elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology,” she said at her January 2009 confirmation hearings. “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy.”

In a recent op-ed, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton wrote about Clinton’s tough words and attitude concerning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions — calling him a “KGB agent,” defined as someone who “doesn’t have a soul.” Shelton also reminded us of Clinton’s use of effective diplomacy with Putin, identifying common interests with an adversary — incenting Russia to agree to new United Nations sanctions on Iran, as well as cooperation on anti-terrorist efforts, including reaching a historic “lethal transit” agreement, which allowed U.S. military planes to transport lethal materials over Russia to Afghanistan.

Or take Clinton’s leadership in supporting and helping the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to implement tough economic sanctions against Iran. These policies constitute a good example of “smart power” in attempting to deter Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon while not eliminating a military option.

“I voted for every sanction that came down the pipe against Iran,” she said recently in a speech to the American Jewish Congress, referring to her years as a senator. “We went after Iran’s oil industry, banks and weapons programs. We enlisted insurance firms, shipping lines, energy companies, financial institutions, and others to cut Iran off.”